Two ministers of the Joseon Kingdom go at odds with each other when the Qing dynasty invades their territory in this period epic.

It’s the year 1636 and the Qing dynasty decides to attack the Joseon kingdom. To evade the attacks, King Injo and his retainers, including Minister Choi Myung-Gil and Kim Sang-Hun, hide in the mountainous city of Namhansanseong. To make matters worse, the kingdom is running out of supplies and rations for the villagers. While in isolation, Injo and the retainers begin to decide what to do in this situation. This is where the dissention begins.

Minister Choi suggests that Injo comes up with a peaceful solution between Joseon and the Qing dynasty. Minister Kim, a hardened military officer, thinks the best mode is to go in and attack. While these two are at odds with their differential points of view, the prime minister is given the role of commanding officer. In addition, the messenger send to retrieve a manifesto is killed. As everyone begins to suffer from the cold as a result of the invasion, a decision will be made to change history forever.

Writer and director Hwang Dong-Hyuk adapted the novel “Namhansanseong” from Kim Hoon to make this period piece that is more drama-driven rather than action-packed. Normally with period films today, there is a balance between the dramatics and set action pieces. However, this film depicts more of a period drama that has beats of military action pieces set between the Joseon Kingdom and the more superior Qing dynasty of China.

Lee Byung-Hun and Kim Yoon-Seok play the two retainers who are at war not only with their rivals from China but with each other as well over what to do as the invasion continues. Lee’s Choi wants a peaceful solution in which at times, he appears before the commanding officer of the Qing dynasty to discuss negotiations on a few occasions. However, Kim is seen a hellbent officer who believes in “military discipline” and feels that a continuous attack would be a more viable solution.

While the war is the primary focus of the film, there are a few subplots that should be noted as they play an important part of the story. One involves Minister Kim, who in the film’s opening scene, kills an elderly man and ends up having to take care of the man’s granddaughter, perhaps as a sign of repentance while another character, Nal-Soi, finds himself conflicted with what is going on during the invasion and will make a decision that could determine the fate of the war, because he will become the messenger tasked to send a manifesto to the side Injo picks in the finale.

The Fortress is a thought-out drama-driven adaptation of a novel with sparse beats of period style action. While the drama is quite tense, it can be a bit sluggish, but nonetheless, fans of period films may end up liking this film.


CJ Entertainment presents a Siren Film Ltd. Production. Director: Hwang Dong-Hyuk. Producer: Kim In-Jeon. Writer: Hwang Dong-Hyuk; based on the novel “Namhamsanseong” by Kim Hoon. Cinematography: Kim Ji-Yeon.

Cast: Lee Byung-Hun, Kim Yoon-Seok, Park Hae-Il, Park Hee-Soon, Lee David, Jo Woo-Jin, Song Hyung-Soo, Han Chang-Hyun

This film will be released in the United States on October 20. Check out the CJ Entertainment site for availability in your area.